Israel to U.S. and EU: Palestinians Deceived Kerry

In letter, Israel's national security adviser urges U.S., EU to blame Palestinians for the failure of peace talks.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Kerry, left, talks with Abbas at the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Kerry, left, talks with Abbas at the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The Palestinians intentionally deceived United States Secretary of State John Kerry about their willingness to conduct serious negotiations, and should therefore be blamed for the failure of the peace talks, National Security Advisor Joseph Cohen charged in a letter sent to numerous Western capitals over the last two weeks.

Read Cohen's full letter here.

The letter is dated April 22, which is roughly when Fatah signed its reconciliation agreement with Hamas and three weeks after Israel canceled its final release of Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinians applied to join 15 international conventions.

Senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats told Haaretz that Cohen sent copies of the letter to U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, all the European Union countries’ ambassadors, the Russian and Chinese ambassadors, and U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, among others. He sent it directly, without coordinating with either the Foreign Ministry or the relevant Israeli embassies, they added.

Attached to the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by Haaretz, is a 65-page document that chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat submitted to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on March 9, three weeks before Israel was to release the final batch of Palestinian prisoners. In it, Erekat proposed a strategy for the PA during the final month of negotiations and after April 29, when the talks were originally scheduled to end before their premature collapse.

Erekat recommended applying to join various international conventions, informing the U.S. and Europe that the Palestinians wouldn’t extend the talks beyond April 29, demanding that Israel nevertheless release the final batch of prisoners, intensifying efforts to reconcile with Hamas to thwart what he termed an Israeli effort to sever the West Bank from Gaza politically, and various other diplomatic and public relations moves.

Over the past month, the PA has implemented most of Erekat’s recommendations. This, Cohen wrote in his letter, shows that even while the Palestinians were talking with Washington about the possibility of extending the peace talks, they were actually planning to blow them up, and had been planning to do so even before Abbas met with U.S. President Barack Obama on March 17.

“In effect, this is a policy paper presented in early March in preparation for a Palestinian rejection of American proposals and includes ... recommendations to implement a strategy of unilateral Palestinian actions outside the agreed negotiations framework,” Cohen wrote. “This document refutes the current Palestinian claim that the decision to apply for accession to the conventions ... was taken strictly in response to what they considered a delay in the release of the fourth tranche of prisoners. Similarly, it indicates that advancing the reconciliation process with Hamas and bringing Hamas into a new government was under active consideration at the very time intensive negotiations were meant to be under way.”

The document also shows that the Palestinians planned in advance to take unilateral steps in defiance of the commitment they made when the talks were launched in July 2013, he wrote.

“In short, the document serves as damning evidence of bad faith on the part of the Palestinian side,” he wrote. “It suggests that plans to reject American proposals and pursue unilateral actions were in place well in advance, despite the unwavering commitment shown by Secretary Kerry ... and the seriousness which Israel has demonstrated throughout the negotiation process.”

Cohen concluded by urging the letter’s recipients publicly blame the Palestinians rather than Israel for the talks’ failure. “I would respectfully request that this letter and the attached document be passed on to the relevant officials and that the necessary conclusions be drawn both with respect to Palestinian responsibility for the current impasse and to the measures needed to respond appropriately to the situation that has been created which gravely endangers prospects for advancing the peace process,” he wrote.

A senior Israeli official involved in the decision to send the letter said its goal was to “expose the Palestinian system, under which even as they were conducting negotiations, an orderly Palestinian plan was prepared to fight Israel in the diplomatic arena. Had they wanted serious negotiations, they wouldn’t have prepared an exit strategy like this.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also assailed Abbas as a peace rejectionist during an Independence Day reception for foreign diplomats on Tuesday, and warned that his reconciliation with Hamas would result in Hamas taking over the West Bank.

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